Blog posts may be reprinted without permission,
provided a link to is included.

A 210 year-old copy machine? Really?

I believe that when you left America the invention of the Polygraph had not yet reached Boston. it is for copying with one pen while you write with the other … I think it the finest invention of the present age … knowing that you are in the habit of writing much … I have accordingly had one made [for you] … as a Secretary which copies for us what we write without the power of revealing it, I find it a most precious possession to a man in public business.
To James Bowdoin, July 10, 1806

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Far-sighted leaders promote new inventions.
Jefferson owned a polygraph, “the finest invention of the present age,” a device for making copies of letters. (Here’s another image, which better illustrates how it  folded up for transport.) It consisted of two ink pens suspended over two sheets of paper. The pens were held together by a series of wooden arms and hinges. When one of the pens was lowered onto the paper to write, the second pen followed along and made an identical copy. There were polygraphs with three and four ink pens for making multiple copies, but they were more difficult to use.

He loved the polygraph for several reasons. He kept a copy of everything he wrote. It allowed him to make a copy without having a secretary duplicate one from his original. Thus, he could keep his correspondence private. The polygraph was portable, and he traveled regularly between Washington City and Monticello. Finally, he simply loved inventions and machines. (He tinkered with Hawkins’ design to make it work better!)

What a polygraph cost in 1806 is anyone’s guess, but for sure, it was not cheap. Jefferson loved his new device so much he had one made for Bowdoin, an American minister to Spain. One of the lesser factors in Jefferson’s ever-increasing debt was his tendency to shower gifts on his friends, whether he had the cash to pay for them or not.

While Jefferson was devoted to his polygraph, it was not a commercial success. It took too much adjustment to keep in proper working order. That was not a problem for a man who loved to tinker.

“We heard nothing but praise from the audience members.”
Washington State Association of Counties
Mr. Jefferson’s remarks will elicit praise from your audience, too.
Invite him to speak. Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Personal preferences Tagged , , , , , , , |

Does urban green space promote good health?

Such a constitution of atmosphere being requisite to originate this disease as is generated only in low, close, and ill-cleansed parts of a town, I have supposed it practicable to prevent its generation by building our cities on a more open plan. Take, for instance, the chequer board for a plan. Let the black squares only be building squares, and the white ones be left open, in turf and trees. Every square of houses will be surrounded by four open squares, and every house will front an open square. The atmosphere of such a town would be like that of the country, insusceptible of the miasmata [diseased air] which produce yellow fever. I have accordingly proposed that the enlargements of the city of New Orleans, which must immediately take place …
To C. F. de C. Volney, February 8, 1805

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Far-sighted leaders plan for public health.
Earlier in this letter, Jefferson wrote at length about the ravages of yellow fever. While decades would pass before the mosquito was identified as the cause, Jefferson the scientist studied the evidence. It struck in the late summer, was worst in the tidewater areas, especially in cities where people were crowded together. It wasn’t contagious, and exposure to fresh air often hastened the recovery of some of the afflicted. Bad air of some kind might be the cause.

Jefferson loved the country life and cared not at all for crowded cities. In this excerpt, he proposed the spaciousness of the country be incorporated as cities expanded, as a way to promote public health. If urban expansion was designed as a checkerboard, and only the squares of one color built upon, every block of development would be surrounded by four blocks of green space. Every house on every block would also face green space.

Such a plan would not only make city living more like country life but would free urban landscapes from the danger of diseased air. Although he proposed such a plan to begin in New Orleans, his idea was not adopted.

“We especially appreciated your ability to tailor the presentation
to fit the theme of the conference …”
Linn State Technical College
Thomas Jefferson will tailor his presentation to your audience.
Invite him to speak. Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Health

Everyday stuff in the life of a leader

Harrassed with interruptions & worn down with fatigue; I take up my pen at midnight to scribble you a line …  your clover seed has been forwarded to Richmond some time ago … I still hope to get away in a fortnight or thereabouts. by the next post I shall probably desire that Davy Bowles may be got to bring my chair [carriage?] & two horses as far as Herring’s a quarter of a mile this side of Strode’s & there wait for me. I shall go on horseback that far … my tenderest love to my dearest Martha & the little ones …
To Thomas Mann Randolph, March 6, 1801

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders need to squeeze personal time into the professional.
The previous post was written two days before Jefferson left the Presidency. This one is eight years earlier, just two days into that office. Late at night and exhausted from his official duties, he wrote briefly to his son-in-law, Martha’s husband.

In addition to the mundane, reporting on the location of clover seed he had ordered, he said a neighbor was bringing a report on Washington and included another’s account of both armistice and conflict in Europe.

Jefferson had been in Washington over three months, since November 27, sharing a boarding house with many others. He hoped to return to Monticello soon. He would arrange with Davy Bowles to bring his horses and carriage to a rendezvous at a certain tavern, Herring’s in Culpepper County, halfway between Washington and home.

His elder daughter Martha already had four children, ages two to 10, and was pregnant with another. (A sixth born in 1794 had died in infancy.) By 1818, the Randolphs would have 12 children, 11 surviving.

“… thinking that having Mr. Jefferson as our conference keynote to be held
in Richmond [VA] at The Hotel Jefferson would be ideal, and it was!”

Carolina-Virginias Telephone Membership Association
Mr. Jefferson would be the ideal keynote speaker at your conference!
(It needn’t be at The Hotel Jefferson … but it is a nice place!)
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Family matters Tagged , , , , , , , |

Can leadership make you a prisoner?

Within a few days I retire to my family, my books and farms; and having gained the harbor myself, I shall look on my friends still buffeting the storm, with anxiety indeed, but not with envy. Never did a prisoner, released from his chains, feel such relief as I shall on shaking off the shackles of power.
To P. S. Dupont de Nemoirs, March 2, 1809

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Retiring leaders need to walk away … and rejoice.
Two days after writing this letter, President Jefferson’s second term ended, and he turned the reins over to James Madison, his close friend of more than 30 years. He would trade the “shackles of power,” which he compared to a prisoner’s chains, for all the delights of home.

He had gained the “harbor” of retirement. While he was anxious for his friends as America teetered on the brink of war with England, he did not envy them. Jefferson now had his fondest wish: The prisoner had been set free.

“…how excellent it was having Mr. Jefferson
be our conference keynote speaker …”
Missouri Rural Water Association
Mr. Jefferson will be excellent for your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Family matters, Leadership styles Tagged , , , , , , , , |

What advice does a dying man offer?

This letter will, to you, be as one from the dead, the writer will be in the grave before you can weigh it’s counsels. your affectionate and excellent father has requested that I would address to you something which might possibly have a favorable influence on the course of life you have to run, and I too, as a namesake, feel an interest in that course. few words will be necessary with good dispositions on your part.
adore God. reverence and cherish your parents. love your neighbor as yourself, and your country more than yourself. be just. be true. murmur not at the ways of Providence. so shall the life into which you have entered be the Portal to one of eternal and ineffable bliss.
and if to the dead it is permitted to care for the things of this world, every action of your life will be under my regard. farewell.
Th: Jefferson to Th: Jefferson Smith, February 21, 1825

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Dying leaders can still inspire.
A better known portion of this letter is his “Decalogue of Canons for Observation in Practical Life,” Part One and Part Two. These summed his 81 years of experience and wisdom into 10 principles for everyday living.
Here, Jefferson encouraged his namesake to:
1. Love God
2. Love your parents
3. Love your neighbor as yourself
4. Love your country more than youself.
5. Be honest and truthful.
6. Don’t complain about God’s ways.
A life lived by these principles would usher young Smith into another life of perfect and eternal happiness.

It would be 16 ½ months before Jefferson died, but his health was failing. He knew his end couldn’t be far. If he could see this world from the next, he promised to watch over his namesake.

“Mr. Jefferson’s presentation on leadership was a wonderful and unique way
to kick off an extremely successful conference.”
County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania
Will “wonderful” and “unique” appeal to your audience?
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
2 Comments Posted in Aging, Morality Tagged , , , , , , |

Can tragedy resurrect a leader?

Mrs Jefferson has added another daughter to our family. She has been ever since & still continues very dangerously ill. It will give me great pleasure to see you here whenever you can favor us with your company. You will find me still busy but in lighter occupations. But in these & all others you will find me to retain a due sense of your friendship & to be with sincere esteem, Dr Sir
Your mo ob & mo hble servt.
To James Monroe, May 20, 1782

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Lucy Elizabeth Jefferson was born 12 days before this letter. That was Martha Jefferson’s 7th pregnancy in 15 years. She was widowed with a young son when she and Jefferson began courting. That child died the summer before she-remarried. She bore six children to Thomas during their 10 year marriage.

Little is known about Martha, but she was an intelligent and resourceful woman. She was not physically strong and recovery from her pregnancies was difficult. She did not recover from Lucy’s birth and died four months later.

Jefferson was inconsolable for weeks in his grief. Toward the end of the year, his friends helped him escape Monticello by renewing his appointment to the team negotiating peace with England. That position wasn’t realized, but Jefferson was elected to Congress the next year and sent as minister to France in 1784.

Martha’s death set in motion the events that would draw Jefferson back onto the public stage for the next nine years. Would he have remained retired and content at Monticello had Martha not died? Anybody’s guess.

Lucy Elizabeth would die two and a half years later.

“Thank you so much for the great job you did as Thomas Jefferson.”
Missouri Mappers Association
Mr. Jefferson will do a great job for your audience, too!
Invite him to speak. Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Grief & loss Tagged , , , , , , , |

Is ambition essential for leadership?

Before I ventured to declare to my countrymen my determination to retire from public employment, I examined well my heart to know whether it were thoroughly cured of every principle of political ambition, whether no lurking particle remained which might leave me uneasy when reduced within the limits of mere private life. I became satisfied that every fibre of that passion was thoroughly eradicated.
To James Monroe, May 20, 1782

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
isinterested” leaders might make the best leaders.
In the previous post, also excerpted from this letter, Jefferson gave some reasons for not heeding his county’s call to serve in the Virginia House of Delegates. Those reasons were preceded by the one above.

Before he determined to retire from public life, he asked himself, “Is my political ambition gone? Completely gone? Can I be happy and fulfilled in the much smaller arena of private life?” His answer to those questions was “Yes.” A year later, he was still at rest with his decision.

Jefferson appears to say that ambition, in some amount at least, is essential for leaders. Examining himself and finding none, he concluded that he was justified in declining any leadership role.

Yet, Jefferson would come out of retirement twice and log 21 more years as a public leader. Did the ambition come back? I think not, and that’s what made him such an effective leader. He could lead or govern motivated by principle rather than ambition. He had become “disinterested,” a word he used to describe someone who had no personal agenda, only the best interests of the people he served.

“Your presentation was an excellent blend of history, education and inspiration,
and your knowledge … down to the last detail, was remarkable.”
Washington Association of County Officials
Let Mr. Jefferson teach and inspire your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Human nature, Leadership Tagged , , , , , , |

Am I obligated forever?

If we are made in some degree for others, yet in a greater are we made for ourselves…
I may think public service & private misery inseparably linked together …
I am persuaded that having hitherto dedicated to them the whole of the active & useful part of my life I shall be permitted to pass the rest in mental quiet. …
To James Monroe, May 20, 1782

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders have a natural right to say no.
Monroe had been elected to the Virginia House of Delegates from his home county. Jefferson’s county elected him to serve, too, but he refused. Monroe wrote to him on May 11, 1782, “you should not decline the service of your country.”
These three excerpts come from a lengthy rebuttal to his good friend.
1. By natural law, his personal rights were greater than the state’s.
2. One sacrificed personal peace for public service.
3. He had earned his private rest after 13 years of public service.

Jefferson cited compelling family and financial reasons, too. Also, he was still smarting from accusations of cowardice and treason at the end of his second term as governor a year before. He was done with public life, and no one would convince him otherwise.

Jefferson would soon re-enter public life, but for a reason he could not have imagined. He would serve 11 more years before retiring again, just as adamant to remain a private citizen forever. That retirement would last only three years.

“The presentation he brings is sure to be professional,
unique and enjoyed by all.”
Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society National Conference
Would “professional, unique and enjoyed by all” appeal to your audience?
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Miscellaneous Tagged , , , , , , , |

Are interns taken advantage of?

I always was of opinion that the placing a youth to study with an attorney was rather a prejudice than a help. we are all too apt by shifting on them our business, to incroach on that time which should be devoted to their studies. the only help a youth wants is to be directed what books to read, and in what order to read them. I have accordingly recommended strongly to Phill to put himself into apprenticeship with no one, but to employ his time for himself alone. to enable him to do this to advantage I have laid down a plan of study which will afford him all the assistance a tutor could, without subjecting him to the inconvenience of expending his own time for the emolument of another.
To Thomas Turpin, February, 1769

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Hands-on or hands-off for a leader-in-training?
Thomas Turpin was Jefferson’s uncle and the father of two sons, Horatio and Phillip. He had written to Jefferson asking if he would take Phillip as an apprentice to become a lawyer. (There were no law schools.) Jefferson was not quite 26. He had been in the practice of law for just two years, after five years of study.

In this response, Jefferson declined the request for two reasons, one practical and one professional.
1. He was on the move. Still living at home, he expected to be traveling in the practice of law seven of the next nine months. Come winter, he hoped to move to a small cottage he was building across the river from his current residence, and would not have room to house an apprentice. (That cottage would become the South Pavilion, the first building constructed on the hilltop complex that would come to be known as Monticello.)
2. Too often, legal apprentices were expected to spend much of their time doing the lawyer’s work for him and not enough time studying law itself.

What his aspiring young cousin really needed was a plan of study and the proper books to read. Jefferson provided that plan and a catalog of books. The cost of those books was “pound 100 sterling.” One source indicates that might be $15,000 in today’s money. Another source doubles that amount. Regardless, it was sizeable, but Jefferson offered two suggestions to lessen the burden.
1. He divided his catalog in quarters, so it could be acquired in pieces, one-fourth at a time.
2. The cost could be considered as part of his cousin’s inheritance and deducted from that amount later.

“The evaluations have been tallied … There is not a doubt about it.
You were the hit of our annual conference.”
MO Association for Adult Continuing and Community Education
Mr. Jefferson will be the hit of your conference, too!
Invite him to speak. Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Education, Lawyers Tagged , , , , , , , |

Why immigrants love America!

I think it fortunate for the United States to have become the asylum for so many virtuous patriots of different denominations: but their circumstances, with which you were so well acquainted before, enabled them to be but a bare asylum, & to offer nothing for them but an entire freedom to use their own means & faculties as they please.
To Jean Nicholas Demeunier, April 29, 1795

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
The previous post was taken from this letter, too. There, Jefferson advised his French-immigrant correspondent not to seek fulfilling employment with the government because there was none. The private sector held the best prospects.

In this excerpt, Jefferson welcomed the immigrants driven out by the political and warring turmoils of Europe. Demeunier was representative of a privileged class of new arrivals. America offered the exact same opportunity to them that it offered its poorest immigrants, “nothing … but an entire freedom” to better themselves according to their own abilities.

“Your portrayal of Thomas Jefferson was superlative
and completely engaging of the audience …

Washington State Association of Counties
Let the “superlative” Thomas Jefferson captivate your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call Patrick Lee, 573-657-2739
Leave a comment Posted in Miscellaneous Tagged , , , , , , |